What does a “mindful” framework for parish ministry look like in a community? How can we embody the principles of a “Mind-in-Heart Spiritual Leadership” paradigm within a corporate/resource-sized parish?
As we enter 2015, and as we continue to reflect and discern how the Spirit is guiding us in our common life, we have shared many conversations about our experiences of ministry and mission. I have taken time to gather these and compile them into what I think is an exciting and meaningful framework for shared ministry and mission at Grace Episcopal Church. Using the Mindful Church Initiative as a rich ground for ongoing visioning and reflection, there is much that we can share together as a community of prayer.
The vestry and staff have shared rich conversations, wondering how we are being led to grow and practice our faith, and we feel strongly led to continue exploring a model of shared ministry grounded in an awareness of God’s Indwelling Presence.
Three questions that have shaped my own discernment are:
- How can we organize our common life so that we encourage the nurture and embodiment of spiritual gifts and strengths within the community?
- How can we be intentional about our language and formation in terms of our leadership and ministry?
- How can we encourage collaboration and reflection with a vision of shared ministry and community identity?
When it comes to these questions, the Mindful Church Initiative offers a language for intentional reflection and strategic development. It is a model that asks us to take faithful risks in our trusting of the Spirit’s guidance–moving away from a ‘mere’ program-maintenance model that avoids the deep vulnerabilities–and experiences–of a prayerful life together. What does it look like when we intentionally cultivate an awareness of God’s Presence–and let that seeking and wonder shape the way we “do” ministry as a community?
Given our experience in 2014, and our collective hope for the coming years, I offer this framework for our organization and continued development. With each of the five Ministry Clusters, there are staff, vestry persons, and pivotal lay leaders who help organize and lead the committees. On the whole, we aren’t radically changing what we do. Rather, we are being more mindful of why we do it and how we are called to participate with God’s mission in the world. This mindfulness will, indeed, give shape to what we do as a community called to embody Christ’s love in the world.
The five Ministry Clusters are:
The Formation Ministry Cluster focuses on the spiritual formation and faith development of the entire parish. How is the parish community learning and becoming more aware of its identity as a community of faith? How are we learning the language of faith, of our tradition, of the richness of the sacramental life? How are we learning to be followers of Christ, disciples in the world today? Anglicans within the particular part of the world in which we live? How are we learning and experiencing new practices of prayer, growing out of the nurturing root of the father and mothers in the faith? How are we sharing our spiritual experieces with one another? In this cluster, we focus on:
– Adult Spiritual Formation/Christian Education
– Youth Spiritual Formation/Christian Education
– Children Spiritual Formation/Christian Education
– Worship and Liturgy
– Practices of Prayer
In the Compassion cluster, we focus on the ways we are called to embody Christ’s love in the world around us. How are we living into the Great Commandment to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves? Our acts and practices of compassion are expressed both within the parish and within the broader community–and the world. In listening to Christ’s call on our lives, we are led to share God’s love in concentric circles of compassion. In the words of St. Teresa of Avila, God has no hands but ours in the world today. At Grace, we take that call seriously. The aspects of ministry within this cluster are
– Pastoral Care
– the development of the Community of Hope within Grace Church
How do we invite seekers and searchers into the community? What does the call to radical hospitality look like at Grace? How do we encourage our brothers and sisters to share God’s love in the world? To continue learning and exploring their faith? How do we nurture a faithful and diverse community at Grace Church? How do we foster fellowship…the rich joy of being together as a community of faith? The ministry aspects within this cluster are
– Membership Development and Newcomers
– Parish Life
Administration and management are spiritual gifts, and when we mindfully live into these gifts, we see glimpses of the deep meaning in the symbol of Christ as Shepherd. The leadership of the parish is a rich teamwork of clergy, vestry, staff, and lay ministry leaders. Every single person in the parish has gifts that help build up the entire community. The aspects of ministry in this cluster are
– Staff development and management
– Vestry development and discernment
This ministry cluster rose directly out of our Listening Circle sessions in Spring of 2014. We recognized the rich gifts that the community has, especially regarding the arts and creative endeavors. Together, we wondered how Grace Church, as a community of creative persons, might invite a space within the broader community that would nurture the creative gifts that God has given us all. We are making a claim at Grace, that our identity as Children of God means that we are called into a co-creative ministry in the world today. This ongoing wonder about a Center for Art and Spirituality will include
– video and digital media
– what else??
This framework and vision discernment are ongoing at Grace, and oh what a rich space it is!